Understanding Alcohol Dependence
Alcohol appears to be a socially acceptable habit and is consistently associated with fun times and popular people living life to the fullest. Despite the marketing hype, alcohol actually has the potential to be a very dangerous substance. In much the same way that illegal or prescription drugs can cause a person to become dependent on their use, alcohol can function as a pain reliever of sorts and create a similar physical dependency.
What Is Alcohol Dependence?
First and foremost, this dependency on alcohol is a disease. As medical and scientific research continues, more information is being learned about how this chronic disease begins and how it can potentially be controlled. Recent discoveries are leading researchers to discuss the possibility of isolating a particular gene in the DNA, believing this may be what causes a predisposition for some people to become alcohol dependent. The defining characteristics are the inability to control their consumption habits and an attachment that is both emotionally and physically driven.
Until viable research leads to a preventative measure to counteract alcoholism or cure this disease altogether, it is imperative to understand how it can affect the lives of those suffering from the effects of alcohol dependency. Even the closest family and friends may seem to change their behavior completely when under the influence of alcoholic beverages and they begin to behave like total strangers. To understand how to help, it is important to learn why this happens and what can be done to overcome the challenges associated with excessive alcohol consumption.
Effects of Alcohol Dependent Behavior
When an individual becomes dependent on alcohol, it quickly becomes the preoccupation of their lives. As a person’s tolerance for alcohol in the body increases, more alcohol is necessary to create a feeling of intoxication, which causes them to increase their consumption over time. This vicious cycle can continue up to the point of alcohol poisoning in the bloodstream.
The inability to perform normal daily functions, especially at work or at school, are a normal part of life for people who have become alcohol dependent. They are simply unable to function without having alcohol and frequently begin drinking even before they are out of bed in the morning. Withdrawals can begin almost immediately when the alcohol content begins to become diluted in the blood.
Psychological and behavioral effects of an alcohol dependent person are profound and often swing from one extreme to the other on the emotional spectrum. Some people under the influence of alcohol may become sullen and withdrawn while others will become the proverbial life of the party. Feelings about alcohol dependency may vary between awareness and guilt to indifference and rebellious.
Signs Of Alcohol Dependent Behavior
The following are some signs to look out for to assess if you or a loved one is displaying alcohol dependent behavior:
- Daily alcohol use
- Increasing the volume of alcohol consumed
- Unable to ‘relax’ without a drink
- Isolation from friends and family
- Hiding alcohol use from loved ones
People who have become so used to alcohol that they are unable to function without it for even one day may initially attempt to hide their behavior from loved ones. Alternatively, they truly may not even realize that there is a problem. They may be fooling themselves into believing that they have everything under control and that they can stop drinking at any time they are ready to make the choice. The truth is, once daily alcohol consumption becomes a habit, the individual may already be on the road to becoming dependent.
Likewise, when the general amount of alcohol intake increases or a person begins to seek alcohol from a variety of unusual sources such as mouthwash or other products, there is likely a dependency being formed. The overall increase of volume consumed or an increase in the rate at which it is consumed are cause for alarm.
When an individual claims they only drink to relax or unwind but seem to be agitated without a drink, they may be struggling with alcohol dependency symptoms. Excessive drinking that leads to blackouts, prolonged dizziness, and other symptoms of aggressive or paranoid behavior are extreme reason for caution. Any of these triggers are enough reason to believe alcohol consumption has become a problem and needs to be professional addressed.
Look for and monitor other changes related to mood or behavior that may be consistent with alcohol consumption, even if they seem relatively harmless when considered independently of other signs. Attempts to hide, deny, or defend their behavior are clear indicators that dependency may be a concern. If someone begins to justify their behavior or becomes aggressive when confronted in a loving way, it may be time to seek treatment for alcohol dependence.
Effective Treatment Options
There are solutions for individuals attempting to overcome a battle with alcohol dependency. The first step for many people is therapeutic counseling. This can be accomplished in a group setting or one on one therapy sessions. Family and friends often want to be part of the healing process and may choose to be included in the counseling aspect to the extent that it is healthy and possible.
Severe alcoholism is likely to have produced serious side effects, including emotional and physical impacts that require medical assessments. The detoxification process in these cases should be medically supervised and only begun after a full assessment of the individual has been carried out. Precautions can be taken to prevent dehydration, and lessen other common side effects of withdrawal such as nausea, dizziness, and panic attacks. During the detoxification process and beyond, medication may be used to determine if it can reduce the desire to consume alcohol for a particular individual.
In addition to treatment for the safe and effective withdrawal from alcohol, medical assessments are necessary for another reason during the detoxification process. The physical effects of consumption over a period of time are extremely damaging to internal organs, the nervous system, and many other voluntary and involuntary bodily functions. It will be necessary to treat any co-occurring health concerns that have been developed along with the alcohol dependency.
Taking a holistic approach and treating the mental, physical, and emotional effects of excessive alcohol use is one of the most recommended treatment options. This will ensure that the causes of alcohol use have been addressed and the individual has developed appropriate coping mechanisms to replace the tendency to turn to alcohol. A combination of counseling and individual or group therapy efforts and a complete medical examination are all part of the solution for overcoming alcohol dependency.
If you or a loved one suspect that alcohol dependency may be a real concern, help is available now. Contact an admissions specialist at St. John’s Recovery Place today and find out how to begin treatment.